Ensuring timely medicine supply and management key to large-scale treatment campaigns
13 September 2017 | Geneva –– In 2015, more than 1 billion people received preventive treatment for at least one neglected tropical disease (NTD). In the same year, 1.3 billion tablets1 were supplied to 77 countries where NTDs are endemic for treatment planned in 2016. This unprecedented achievement involved the coordination and delivery of mainly donated medicines by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Donated tablets provided through WHO for preventive treatment of NTDs have increased from 353 million in 2009 to more than 1.7 billion in 2016” said Dr Gautam Biswas, Coordinator of WHO’s Preventive Chemotherapy and Transmission Control unit. “With this increase, we expect to deliver close to 1.5 billion treatments during 2017.”
One of the priority activities of the donation programme coordinated by WHO is to improve access to these medicines in a timely manner. The careful planning begins with knowing the amount and type of medicine required by endemic countries and ensuring that the donated shipment arrives on time to enable accurate, on-schedule delivery.
“We have an appropriate mechanism in place that facilitates the process for countries to apply for medicine donations in a timely manner,” said Dr Afework Tekle, Project Manager who oversees the delivery of donated medicines. “This helps us to review, report and improve coordination and integration among different programmes.”
In order to improve both the delivery time of requested medicines and the timely receipt of treatment, recipient countries have agreed to submit their requirements to WHO before the two deadlines (15 April or 15 August) every year. This depends on the dates planned for mass drug administration and ensures a lead-time of at least eight months during which the large-scale treatment is planned.
“The two-month lead period in the country helps national programmes to improve the in-country movement of medicines,” added Dr Tekle. “This includes the distribution of medicines from the central medical store at national level to peripheral health facilities where most people affected by NTDs live.”
The arrival of medicines on time at the national warehouse of endemic countries is key to a successful large-scale treatment campaign and the process is closely monitored by WHO. From 2015 to 2017, on-time delivery has significantly improved (that is, medicines have arrived at least two months before the planned treatment date).
Despite major improvements, WHO continues to improvise to ensure that medicines are shipped to endemic countries on time, as sustained progress relies on a coordinated response involving countries, partners, donating companies, agencies and organizations.
1 For preventive treatment of some diseases, more than one tablet is needed according to the height and age of the individual.